Here is the airing of accusations and denials that followed Question Period today.
In other news, the protester known as Jeh was just on Power & Politics explaining that nothing was amiss with the blood on his face, that the poor quality of the image of him leaving Parliament is to account for the blood not being visible. He also produced what he said was an ER report of his injuries to the nose and face.
Hon. Jay Hill (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege in regards to the disturbance in the public gallery yesterday during question period and charge the member for Toronto—Danforth with contempt for his involvement in this incident.
It has now become quite clear that the people who disrupted the proceedings of this House were guests of the leader of the NDP. That member booked room 237-C from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon prior to Question Period for the use of that group. It was set up, according to the parliamentary functions room request form, for theatre-style seating, standing microphones for questions, and media feed, all provided by the House of Commons.
Conservative members of the Environment Committee happened to be meeting in the Commonwealth Room, which is adjacent to room 237-C. Those members reported to me that they heard the group in room 237-C practising their chant very loudly. It was clear to all people.
We cannot allow members to misuse Parliament to aid in such obstruction. Obstructing members in the performance of their duties is a breach of our privileges, as we well know. Clearly, yesterday during Question Period, this House was obstructed by the disturbance in the gallery. Question Period was interrupted while security cleared the gallery. The Canadian Press reported that the NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley stood outside watching after the protesters were ushered from the building and praised their disruptive tactics. He was quoted as saying: “It’s pretty powerful, there’s no doubt about it, young people getting this animated.”
This was not just a bunch of kids making a point. We had two constables that reportedly went to the hospital as a result of that group making their point. It was also reported to me that some members were uncomfortable and feared for their safety. Might I remind the Speaker that it is also contempt to intimidate, or attempt to intimidate, members of this House.
I refer hon. members to Marleau and Montpetit at page 67.
There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or Officer of the House in the discharge of their duties.
Marleau and Montpetit states that, By far the most important right accorded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. It has been described as: …a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.
On page 84 of Marleau and Montpetit it states: Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its Members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference.
The precedent cited on that same page is from Speaker Lamoureux, who went further and suggested that members should be protected from “threats or attempts at intimidation”.
We must provide protection for the House, its members, and its officers from improper obstruction or attempt at or threat of obstruction that interferes with the performance of their respective functions.
The leader of the protesters is the political events organizer of the NDP. His group gained access to the parliamentary precinct because of the leader of the NDP. The leader of the NDP provided a practice room for this group. They were allowed to go from their practice to the galleries where they obstructed the proceedings of the House and intimidated some members.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you investigate this matter and report back to the House as soon as possible.
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the references that the hon. House leader has made I am familiar with them but I simply want to point out to the House leader and to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is the party that brought forward a 200 page manual on how to obstruct the work of committees.
A former Deputy Speaker, Bill Blaikie, once said to the House that demonstration and filibustering are part of the democratic process. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives Canadians the right to express their freedom of expression. That is what happened here.
Mr. Speaker, I would just indicate that freedom of speech is not just for parliamentarians. It is for all Canadians.
M. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Monsieur le Président, comme plusieurs députés ici en cette Chambre, nous avons effectivement vu que la période de questions d’hier a été perturbée par des personnes dans la tribune.
Je déplore toutefois le fait que le leader du gouvernement à la Chambre des communes se sert de cet événement pour faire de la basse politique partisane. Je m’explique.
Lorsque nous avons eu, il y a environ deux ou trois semaines…
Des voix: Oh, oh!
M. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): J’aimerais, monsieur le Président, finir d’exposer mon point, et on regardera à la fin si ce que j’ai dit est pertinent.
Lorsque nous avons eu l’événement des trois manifestantes déguisées en religieuses il y a deux ou trois semaines, on a vu les services de sécurité agir de façon rapide et de façon efficace alors que ce n’était pas évident. Or, je regrette, mais le forum approprié pour discuter de cet événement n’est pas ici.
Le leader du gouvernement à la Chambre des communesveut essayer de faire de la politique, et il le sait très bien. Le leader du gouvernement a été élu en même temps que moi, en 1993. Cela a fait 16 ans dimanche dernier. Le leader du gouvernement siège depuis plusieurs années, comme moi, au Bureau de régie interne de la Chambre et il sait très bien que c’est dans les attributs et dans les responsabilités et dans les devoirs du Bureau de régie interne de la Chambre de discuter de telles matières.
Étant donné que je suis assermenté, je n’ai pas le droit de divulguer le fonds du sujet, mais le leader du gouvernement sait très bien que le cas des manifestantes déguisées en religieuses a été discuté au forum approprié, à savoir le Bureau de régie interne. Je crois donc que nous n’avons pas à nous prononcer ici en cette Chambre. Que cette question doit discutée au Bureau de régie interne de la Chambre!
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I know that the government takes great exception to anyone who dares to protest. The question the government House leader has raised today is absolutely absurd. As others have pointed out, this is simply political grandstanding.
I would agree that it is this particular House leader who has told the House repeatedly that when such matters arise, the appropriate place to raise those issues is in the House leader’s meeting, which, by the way, will take place at 3:30 this afternoon. If he was concerned about security issues, that is the appropriate place to raise that matter.
What I have to say to the House in response to these ludicrous allegations is that the member for Toronto—Danforth had nothing whatsoever to do with the protest that took place in the gallery yesterday. Let us be very clear. There were members from different parties who met with the young people on Parliament Hill. It is part of our responsibility and mandate to book rooms and meet with constituencies and organizations that are on Parliament Hill.
The member for Toronto—Danforth was simply doing his job. As the leader of the New Democrats, I am glad that he met with this very enthusiastic group of young people who came to Parliament to raise their concerns about climate change. To charge the member with contempt, saying that somehow the NDP organized the protest in the House is ludicrous. There is no conspiracy except in the mind of the government House leader. The fact is we knew nothing about the protest and if members will recall, the protest took place in the middle of the question from the leader of the NDP in question period.
This is an absurd allegation. It is simply being made for political grandstanding. The fact is, yes, the NDP leader met with the group, as did other members of Parliament. We had no knowledge of the protest, but in a broader spectrum, we uphold and respect the rights of people to protest and put forward their points of view.
The government House leader is simply trying to make political points in the House. It is not a question of privilege. The member for Toronto—Danforth has done nothing wrong in terms of his responsibilities as a member. To charge him with contempt of the House is absolutely absurd. I would ask the member to withdraw this point of privilege on the basis that it has no factual or evidentiary information whatsoever.
Mr. Mark Warawa (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on the same question of privilege.
Yesterday the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on the Environment met at 1:30 p.m. At 1:45 p.m. there was a chant or yell, what seemed like a war cry like I have never heard since I was elected in 2004. It was substantial enough that we stopped the meeting to find out what was happening. We proceeded from room 238-S and opened the door to room 237-C to find out what was happening. It was meeting of the same young people that were in the gallery yesterday in question period. I recognized many of them in that room.
Because it was so out of the norm, I checked to find out who had reserved that room and hosted that meeting. It turned out it was the NDP, so the House leader is absolutely right.
Then I was shocked to discover during question period that there was a well organized strategy. Guests of the NDP were sitting in the gallery for this well organized event, which was disgraceful, in my opinion. It was well organized and put observing citizens of Canada who were present and security officers at extreme risk.
After the event, I climbed up there and it was a very dangerous situation that the protestors put our security staff in. People could have gotten hurt. In fact, as the House leader said, two of the officers were injured and had to go to hospital.
We hear an endorsement of that type of action from the Liberals, acceptance from the Bloc and justification from the NDP. It is absolutely disgraceful. It should never have happened. It should not have been hosted and supported by the NDP. It owes the House an apology.
I came here to represent my wonderful community of Langley and it is an honour to be here. To see this type of disrespect for the House should never happen again and the House deserves an apology.
The Speaker: I am not sure we need to hear a whole lot more on this point. I think I have heard enough on the point that I can at least take the matter under advisement at this stage. I am not sure that there has been a breach of the privileges of members from what I have heard, but I will look into the matter further.
Of course in the proceedings yesterday, I could not see what was happening behind me at all. In this seat, you cannot see what is happening in that gallery, but I appreciate the hon. member’s intervention on the point and I will look into it.
Je reviendrai à la Chambre avec une décision. L’autre chose qui est normale avec les questions de privilège, ce n’est pas seulement une question de charge, c’est une question de référence à un comité pour l’étude. J’imagine que s’il y a un problème avec les privilèges, l’honorable leader du gouvernement à la Chambre des communes proposera une motion pour référer le sujet à un comité. Je ne sais pas. Je crois que c’est normal avec une question de privilège. En tout cas.